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of it, Eli distinctly testified his supreme regard to the honor of God above all personal or relative considerations; and, notwithstanding all his faults, he died in the exercise of love to God and his ordinances, and even it should seem by occasion of this. "And it came to pass, when the
messenger made mention of the ark of God, that he fell from off the seat backward by the side of the gate, and his neck broke, and he died : for he was an old man and heavy.""*
Still, however, after all that can be said as to Eli's personal piety or ultimate salvation, such is the contrast between the success which follows from a Parent's vigilance, and the dreadful ruin which ensues from his neglect of known duty.Such the difference between the blessing and the curse of Almighty God resting on a Parent and his posterity! This striking contrast, therefore, I again repeat, will serve to show the reader, that there is no respect of
persons with God, and that he is determined to act on the same solemn principles with his own people as with those who do not, in any degree, acknowledge his authority.
Let every man, therefore, have a care lest he imagine, that in the sc! me of salvation here is the most distant approach to anything analogous to what is called favoritism among men: and let every Parent especially learn, from the sad experience of Eli, that a man's personal interest in the divine favor will prove no security against the application of God's unalterable law, with regard to the connection between Parents and Children. Never, for one moment, let any Parent imagine, that, in one instance, or in any age, the richness and peculiarity of the covenant of grace can be supposed to invade the established government of God over mankind: since it is actually the grand and only preparative to its universal recognition and
establishment. When, therefore, Christian Parents are so judged in this world, it is that they may not be punished with the finally impenitent. “I will be his Father and he shall be my Son," said the Almighty to David, in reference to Solomon ; but he added immediately, “ if he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the Children of men."
And again -“ You only have I known of all the families of the earth, and therefore will I punish you for all your iniquities."
In one word, obedience on the part of the Christian or the Christian Parent secures for him all the inestimable, the boundless blessings of God's everlasting covenant ; while neglect of duty or disobedience only renders the punishment more weighty and severe. Let him be who he may, and his official station ever so eminent, He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind,” and the evils which he brings on his dependents, are doubled to himself! But the Christian trembles at the merciful forewarning of Heaven, and even in his own experience finds a monitor," For we know him that hath said, Vengeance is mine, and I will repay, saith the Lord ;-and again ; the Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful th ng to fall into the hands of the living God.”—“ For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God; visiting the iniquities of the Fathers upon the Children unto the third and fourth generations of them that hate me ; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my coinmandments.
The failure of Parents to be ascribed to a tendency of heart dis
played in undue severity-over indulgence-a baneful inequality of treatment-or sinful partiality.
HITHERTO we have been endeavoring to illustrate the nature of the Constitution in a human family, by bringing the light of divine truth to bear upon it; and this mainly with a view to Parents feeling at once the solemn responsibility and high privileges of their situation. There is, however, a mighty difference between things as they ought to be, and things as they are. 6. The heavens are the Lord's,” and order has he there maintained. The earth he has given to the “children of men ;” and if we desire to see the use which they have made of it, we need not travel over any of its kingdoms. Enter into the bosom of a single family, where “ the hearts of the Parents are not turned towards the Children,” and consequently," the hearts of the Children are not turned to the Parents," and there we see in miniature a picture of any village, of any town or city, nay, of the earth at large, wherever Christianity does not prevail.
To return, therefore, to the Prophet Malachi : notwithstanding the admirable construction of the human family,
in his language it is implied, that there is a melancholy tendency to failure here, and that too a tendency of the heart. 66 He shall turn the heart of the Fathers to the Children.” One party failing, at least, in the way of neglect, and the other in the way of disobedience. So when the angel of the Lord glances at this passage, he says, _66 He shall turn the disobedient to the wisdom of the just.”
To begin, however, as the Scriptures do, with the Parent : Why, it may be inquired, should this ever be the case ? Is there any feeling, under heaven, stronger than this parental love, or any upon which we may with more confidence depend ? Does not the Almighty himself appeal to it, and even by reference to it, condescend 'to explain his own pity to his children? Is it not instinctive, and generally styled natural affection? In short, where can we find any feeling superior in power and in constancy ?-To all these questions there is but one reply. This, like every other natural feeling of our fallen nature, must be brought under the sway of divine revelation ; and not until it is regulated and promoted by divine influence, can it be pronounced in its healthy, and beneficial, and most vigorous exercise. I go even farther than this. Even after the dominion of sin has been broken; after the Parents themselves have been turned to the Lord their God, there is, alas ! still in many, if not in all, some remaining tendency at least to failure. Nor is it impossible to account for this. Were natural connection all that existed between Parent and Child, the case would be different; but this happens to be nearly the strongest moral as well as natural connection which man sustains. This connection involves the performance of so many duties, and these require to be performed with such constancy and perseverance ; with such a mixture of patience and firmness; with so much of tender sympathy
and self-command : in short, the milder and the stronger virtues require to be so interwoven, that without an imperious sense of obligation, daily felt, many affecting and even fatal mistakes will be committed.
This tendency of the heart discovers itself in courses entirely at variance with each other ; but almost every case of failure in Parents may be arranged under one or other of the four following divisions :
1. Undue Severity. This is assuredly a most unwise extreme ; since, after it is carried a certain length, and has continued a certain time, no subsequent treatment, by any individual, can completely, if at all, repair the injury. To whatever degree this is carried, the injury in such case involves a corresponding injury inflicted on the spirit of the Children, which is nothing short of a vital injury. In training even the animal creation, a greater injury cannot be inflicted than to inflame or break the spirit ; and in the instance of a Child, a being born for immortality, how great must be such a crime! Besides, according to the tender language of Scripture, men are cautioned lest they should approach such a point, as though it were the edge of a precipice. “Fathers, provoke not your Children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” After this, what can the Parent do? He may change his conduct and caress, he may humor, but this only aggravates the evil ! By his blind and unthinking precipitancy and impatience, when correcting or restraining “ after his own pleasure,” he has not only gone too far, but he cannot now retrace his steps ! He may repent, and even confess, but in many instances even this is all in vain. The period allotted to him, by the wise and unalterable judgment of Heaven, has been ill employed ; and though time there was, when, if his error had been seen, it might have been at least in part repaired, that time is now gone,